While the brand may have started with a tie, over the years Ralph Lauren and the polo shirt have become almost synonymous in American culture. Now the New York-based fashion label is celebrating its signature product in a coffee-table book published by Rizzoli International.
“The polo shirt is to Ralph Lauren what Mickey Mouse is to Disney or the Statue of Liberty is to New York,” the book begins. “It’s the signature of the company Ralph Lauren created over five decades ago, a symbol that conjures up not only a luxurious way of living, but a chic casualness and ease that has become a cornerstone of American style itself.”
The heavy, 544-page, 6.5-inch-by-8.5-inch hardcover book features a forward by Ralph Lauren as well as documentarist Ken Burns, and an afterward by David Lauren, vice chairman of Ralph Lauren Corp. and son of the designer.
“I wanted the shirt to become part of the life of the person who wore it,” Ralph Lauren writes. “I never knew that after 50 years it would become such a personal icon all over the world. What I do has always come from the way people live. It’s honest and from the heart and hopefully that is what touches the diversity of people who wear my Polo and all my clothes.”
This book, which features 400 color photographs, celebrates the shirt over the years through the use of historic imagery and personal stories of celebrities, politicians, presidents, royals, athletes and everyday people. They include everyone from Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to Paul Newman, Kanye West, Sean Combs and Gigi Hadid — all featured sporting the brand’s iconic polo. There’s a chapter on the Polo pony logo itself, a symbol the company created in 1972, along with sections on the classic white polo, the weathered polo, the Earth Polo, the company’s sustainable product, as well as its appearance in the Olympics, the U.S. Open and Wimbledon.
American filmmaker Burns sums it up this way: “When you wear a Polo shirt, you’re instantly engaged in a profound irony between being unique, but also — because so many others in the world wear it — belonging.”
To promote the book, titled “Ralph Lauren’s Polo Shirt,” the company will offer a limited number of vintage and collectible designs featured in the book for purchase in select stores as well as on the Polo app. They have been sourced from the brand’s archival collection and verified to ensure their authenticity.
The company is also offering The Upcyced Polo Shirt, a selection of pieces that have been repaired by hand by artisans from the Los Angeles-based circular design platform Atelier & Repairs and given a new life through the use of an overdyed process to give each shirt an indigo hue and patched with vintage fabrics on the placket and at the gussets.
New options for ordering polo shirts will also be available through the company’s Custom Polo, Made to Order program.
In addition, the company will open The Ralph Lauren Polo Shop Concept Store in Tokyo on the Ginza and in Berlin. The shops will showcase the company’s polo shirts and include customizaion shops for men, women and children.
Ralph Lauren’s Polo shirt is available now and retails for $36.95.